A report cleared Garcetti and advisor. Attorney for LAPD officer denounces the findings
A confidential, city-commissioned report on sexual harassment allegations made against a former political advisor to Mayor Eric Garcetti, given to a Senate panel, found no evidence that the advisor acted inappropriately or that Garcetti witnessed anything inappropriate.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved Garcetti’s nomination by President Biden to be U.S. ambassador to India in January, two months after the panel received the report from the mayor’s office.
The report remained confidential until last week — a day after The Times reported that it had been given to the Senate panel —raising questions about the city’s handling of the document.
At the same time, the report left out information that would have bolstered the claims of the LAPD officer suing the city over the advisor’s harassment, said the officer’s attorney, Greg Smith.
“This is textbook exercise in providing cover to a public official who wants to conceal misconduct,” Smith said. “It is clear that the city had no interest in a balanced report.”
The report was generated by the city attorney’s office in response to the ongoing litigation, said Rob Wilcox, the city attorney’s spokesman.
In her 310-page report, investigator Leslie Ellis concluded that LAPD Officer Matthew Garza wasn’t subjected to inappropriate behavior by Garcetti advisor Rick Jacobs in Los Angeles or during out-of-state trips.
Jacobs, who has denied sexually harassing anyone, wasn’t interviewed because he declined to meet with the report’s investigators. He was interviewed later by Ellis, but the report’s conclusions didn’t change, the city attorney’s office told The Times on Wednesday.
Former city employees who said in depositions that it was common knowledge in Garcetti’s office that Jacobs harassed men also weren’t interviewed, either because they declined or weren’t contacted by investigator Ellis.
More than two dozen witnesses were interviewed: Garza, Garcetti, several LAPD officers who worked with Garza, Garcetti’s wife Amy Wakeland, current and former Garcetti staffers, two lobbyists registered with the city and a businessman who works at a company that has city contracts.
Garcetti’s office gave confidential city-ordered report on harassment investigation to Senate panel
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office gave a non-public report into allegations of sexual harassment in his office to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The lobbyists and businessman were interviewed because they appeared in a photo that shows Jacobs making a crass gesture in front of the mayor.
Ellis’ report concluded that Garza’s claims in his lawsuit were not credible. Garza had alleged that Jacobs touched the LAPD officer inappropriately and made crude sexual remarks in front of him; that Garcetti witnessed Jacobs’ inappropriate behavior; and that city employees apologized to Garza for Jacobs’ behavior.
“The findings in this report were supported by the evidence that Ofc. Garza’s account generally lacked credibility, where the other witnesses, including Mayor Garcetti, provided credible accounts,” Ellis wrote.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who is investigating claims that Garcetti is alleged to have witnessed Jacobs’ harassing behavior, which the mayor denies, has questioned the thoroughness of the report, which cost L.A. taxpayers nearly $100,000.
Grassley, who has placed a hold on Garcetti’s Senate vote, said this month that “information provided by multiple whistleblowers strongly suggests that this investigation was incomplete at best.”
The Times reported Thursday that the mayor’s office gave the report, which was confidential at the time, to the Foreign Relations Committee in November. On Friday, the city attorney’s office told The Times that it was removing the confidential designation from the report after discovering it had been given to the Senate panel.
Wilcox declined to answer questions about the report, including whether city employees were ordered to participate. The Times reviewed a letter in September 2020 sent by city clerk personnel officer Patricia Jimenez that ordered Garza to take part in the Ellis investigation and warned him that he could lose his job if he didn’t.
Other reports into possible employee misconduct have not been made public.
A city-ordered report involving allegations of harassment against then-City Councilman Jose Huizar in 2013 was not made public because Huizar was a city employee and employee matters are considered confidential, a representative in the city’s personnel department said at the time.
Garza, who served on Garcetti’s security detail, sued the city in 2020, alleging that Jacobs made crude sexual comments and touched him inappropriately. Jacobs worked as Garcetti’s deputy chief of staff and later as his political advisor.
Garcetti witnessed the harassment but did nothing to stop it, Garza’s lawsuit claims. The mayor denies the allegations.
Jacobs, in deposition testimony given in March 2021, said he may have hugged Garza and made sexual jokes in front of the mayor’s security detail. But he said he never harassed anyone.
Garcetti testified that he never saw his onetime political aide inappropriately touch Garza and denied that he heard Jacobs talk explicitly about sex, saying such behavior would be “completely out of character.”
The Ellis report includes summaries of interviews with LAPD officers, including Officer Burt Strogatz, who worked twice a week on the security detail with Garza. He told Ellis that he never saw Jacobs inappropriately touch others.
While Jacobs did pull Strogatz in for a “firm hug,” the hug was “appropriate,” according to the report. Strogatz also did not hear Jacobs make any sexual or otherwise inappropriate comments. However, Jacobs once grabbed Strogatz’s arm and said, “Oh, you’ve got some muscle” and did sometime compliment him to say, “You look good today.”
“Mayor Garcetti’s security detail was close and if something bothered someone in the detail, usually everyone else in security detail became aware of it,” Ellis wrote. “The security detail complained about many things. But, they typically got over the issue. However, the topic of Mr. Jacobs engaging in inappropriate conduct never came up.”
Ellis’ report notes that Jacobs gave hugs to others “but did so appropriately” and that while Jacobs “occasionally touched others’ arms and shoulders,” he did it in a way that did not rise to “the level of inappropriateness.”
The report mentions that one Garcetti aide, Henry Casas, gave deposition testimony in which he talked about receiving unwanted touches. However, the report “distorts” and minimizes Casas’ testimony, said Smith, Garza’s attorney.
Former Garcetti aide Anna Bahr, who was not interviewed, last week told The Times that Jacobs’ alleged sexual harassment of people was “something everyone talked about” in the mayor’s office.
Ellis’ report, which contained no redactions, was sent by the mayor’s office to the State Department, which then gave the report to the Foreign Relations Committee, Garcetti spokesman Alex Comisar said.
The report includes the name of a man who had worked with Jacobs and claimed in an email to Ellis that Jacobs touched him without consent and forcibly kissed him.
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A lawyer for the man outlined his claims, writing that Jacobs hugged his client aggressively and made “lewd and sexually graphic comments” to him. The man also saw Jacobs engage in similar conduct with other people, according to his attorney.
The man ultimately declined to be interviewed, Ellis wrote in her report. Neither the man nor his attorney responded to calls and emails from The Times.
Garcetti spokesman Comisar said that the mayor’s office received the Ellis report from the city attorney’s office. He said the Foreign Relations Committee asked for the report and “we provided the report to them under strict committee confidentiality to protect any sensitive personal information.”
Garcetti wanted the report released, his office said in a statement last week. “The mayor knows the truth, which is that he never witnessed or was made aware of any of the behavior being alleged,” the statement read.
The report said that top staffers, including former chief of staff Ana Guerrero, former counsel Rich Llewellyn, and former aide Heather Repenning, didn’t like Jacobs or didn’t get along with him.
Guerrero also told Ellis that Jacobs hugged people in less powerful jobs than his in an “assertive manner,” according to the report. “Ms. Guerrero opined that Mr. Jacobs hugged as he did to assert his dominance in the relationship,” the report said.
“Mr. Jacobs did not aggressively hug people he viewed as having power, like Ms. Guerrero and Mayor Garcetti, for example,” the report said.
4:25 p.m. March 23, 2022: This article was updated to include information provided by the city attorney’s office on Wednesday that investigator Leslie Ellis had produced a second report that includes an interview with Rick Jacobs. The report’s conclusions didn’t change.
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